Working with private clients can be extremely rewarding and a feasible way to increase your income substantially. I started teaching privates more than a decade ago, and these are my guidelines for developing successful business relationships, which evolved over time and after much experience. This is part of the “Business of Yoga” discussion included in my yoga intensives. We often develop personal relationships with our private clients, but that doesn´t mean you should enter these business relationships casually. Here are some important things to know!
How and where to find clients
When creating your business cards, web site and other marketing material, note that you have “Private and Group Sessions available.” Announce in your group classes that you are available for private sessions. Communicate that privates are a good opportunity to work on individual needs, address particular questions, and introduce people to yoga who might be intimidated or otherwise unable to begin in a group setting. (If you meet a private student at a yoga studio, be sure you teach your privates at that yoga studio if the studio allows it.)
Tell your friends and friends of friends that you offer private sessions. Word of mouth and referrals are your best marketing. Contact Managers or Human Resources Directors of businesses, especially if they have employee wellness programs, and ask if they´d be interested in offering yoga on-site to their employees. Or, ask your friends who work at businesses to recommend you. Never underestimate the size of the business. I have taught private yoga for hair salons, finance institutions, and even construction companies.
Equipment you´ll need
I have found it easiest to require clients to have their own yoga mats. I did sell yoga mats to a business once for a small profit, though it was time consuming. I also toted mats to a business at one point and it´s backbreaking. If you play music when you teach, invest in a portable docking station for your iPod or phone. And, keep a small supply of blocks and straps to take along. It´s also really nice to use essential oil in savasana, but be aware of allergies. See my blog entry on Using Essential Oils in Savasana.
Locations and Your safety
If you agree to work with a client one-on-one, be sure it is in a public setting. If meeting at their office, be sure other people are on site. Only go to someone´s home if you know them. Give your best friend, relative or partner the contact information for where you´re going and what time you will call upon completion to let them know you are okay. If working with someone you do not know, rent space in a public setting. Many yoga studios, gyms, massage centers or spas, or healthcare offices such as chiropractors have extra rooms you can pay a percentage of your income to rent.
What to Charge and Private Client Agreement
It´s important to set up guidelines and business agreements in the beginning to avoid uncomfortable situations in the future. Put everything in writing and either email it to your client and ask for a response that they have read and agree to it, or print it out, have them sign, and keep it in their file.
If you teach outside of a yoga studio, have your clients complete and sign a waiver. See this article on yoga journal: http://www.yogajournal.com/for_teachers/1410
I find it best to schedule 60 minute sessions. In the beginning, charge what massage therapists or personal trainers in your area charge per hour. Build a pay scale for time increments if you plan to offer 75 and/or 90 minutes sessions. As your experience increases and your availability decreases (meaning you are more in demand), you can increase your hourly rate accordingly. If you must travel to your client, say more than five miles in either direction, increase your rate to cover your associated time and gas costs.
For brand new clients, require they book 3 to 5 sessions up front, as results from anything are rarely seen right away, and ask that they pay in advance for all three. Schedule all of those sessions right away, ideally with no more than one week between each session. If you´re uncomfortable asking for this, or want to reserve the right for yourself or the client to decide to move forward after the first meeting, offer to teach one private. Let them know that, should you both decide to continue after the first meeting, you require a minimum of three sessions booked at a time. Most of my private clients pay for no less than 5 to 10 sessions at a time, they´re booked for at least one time per week, and have all worked with me for at least one year.
Your cancellation and refund policy
State in your written agreement that you require a 24 hour notice of cancellation to avoid payment for the session. This is a common courtesy in the service market. As a busy mommy, in order for me to book and maintain privates, I must arrange childcare for which I must pay. If I get a last-minute cancellation, I still have to cover those fees. Of course, you may choose to make exceptions for emergencies. And you need to consider how you´ll compensate your clients if you cancel last minute, such as giving them their next session free of charge. Whether you decide that purchases are final with no refunds, or to refund money minus a booking fee, or that all money is refunded as long as a 24 hour notice is received, be clear how you’ll handle refunds.
This information does do not address how or what to teach private students, as this is learned through your own practice and through continued studies with your teachers. These are my suggestions for managing your private student business. I hope you find it helpful. It certainly helped me establish and maintain successful, rewarding, and long-lasting professional relationships with private students.